Veteran Nigerian electro-funk musician William Onyeabor died in his sleep this week, his record label Luaka Bop announced on Wednesday.
LISTEN TO ONE OF HIS HIT SONGS BELOW...
Onyeabor, a Nigerian star who exploded onto the international stage late in his career, was 70 when he died at his home in Enugu, in the country’s southeast. From 1977 to 1985, Onyeabor released nine albums of electro-funk, which he recorded, pressed and printed at his personal pressing plant, Wilifilms Limited, according to Luaka Bop.
An old photo shows Onyeabor, dashing in a pin-striped suit and a black fedora decorated with a white feather, sitting in a nest of recording equipment with each hand on a different electronic keyboard.
Onyeabor, referred to as “The Chief”, stopped making music in 1985 when he found religion and retreated to his mansion in the country, refusing to talk about his former life.
But his career made a comeback when Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop, which specialises in world music, reissued a compilation of his hits in 2013. A film documentary followed along with a global tour of a band playing Onyeabor’s tracks on US late night talk shows and in London’s Barbican. Despite his newfound fame, Onyeabor didn’t speak much in public.
In a rare interview with the New Yorker in 2014, Onyeabor said: “I’m happy that a new generation is discovering my music.”